The mark of the New Year and the closeness of the 2019 General Elections are two issues that are constantly discussed simultaneously – as the hopes for the New Year come with hopes for an improvement in the standard of living for Nigerians regardless of who wins the 2019 Presidential, National Assembly, Gubernatorial, House of Assembly and FCT local council elections which is scheduled to hold on February 16 and March 2, 2019.
An analysis of the names and faces of the Presidential candidates indicate an interesting mix of old and new faces. President Muhammadu Buhari would be in the race as a candidate for the 5th time, while Atiku Abubakar who was Vice President for 8 years would be running for President for the first time as a candidate and isn’t exactly a new face in Nigeria’s political space. Other candidates such as Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu, Donald Duke, Jerry Gana, Hamza Al-Mustapha, Christopher Okotie and Tope Fasua have held government positions or attempted to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria previously.
There are some new faces in the presidential race such as Fela Durotoye and Omoyele Sowore, as well as Eunice Atuejide and Chike Ukaegbu, the latter candidates who are direct beneficiaries of the Not Too Young To Run (age reduction) law which reduced the age of contesting for President from 40 to 35 years are new faces in the Presidential election.
However, regardless of who is sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is certain that the elections scheduled to hold on February 16 and March 2, 2019 would witness a new crop of leaders across the country.
While there is a lot of focus on the Presidential elections, the new crop of leaders that would emerge at the State Houses of Assembly would be a new breed of elected representatives. There are 991 State House of Assembly and about 360 House of Representative seats across the 36 states and the FCT. This is important to note, as the number of youth candidates running for state House of Assembly and House of Representatives seats across the 91 registered political parties has significantly increased with the passage of the Not Too Young To Run law in May 2018.
The data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the age distribution of candidates running for office as soon as it is released will reveal the level of youth candidacy in 2019.
Youth candidates are not the only new faces in our democracy as we approach the 2019 general elections. Data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reveals that out of 84,004,084 registered voters for the 2019 general elections, there are 42,938,458 youth (18-35) which represents 51.11% of the total number of voters.
Additionally, there are close to 15,000,000 (fifteen million) newly registered voters after the 2015 general elections. These are truly the new faces of Nigeria’s democracy. The youth demographic from all indications would determine the outcome of the 2019 general elections at all levels. President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 general elections by securing 15,424,921 votes to emerge as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The youth vote is the vote that will sway the elections in favor of one candidate or another on Election Day. Youth candidates with character, capacity and competence to win and young voters are the new faces of Nigeria’s democracy to usher in the New Year and a new era of democratic renewal.
Ibrahim Faruk is a Senior Program Officer in the Youth Program at YIAGA AFRICA, based in Abuja, Nigeria He can be reached via email@example.com. He tweets via @IbrhmFaruk